What I am practicing

I have tried so many ways to pray. Tried and failed so many different ways. Little seems to stick. In my mind I have this ideal image of me. I am seated cross-legged on a cushion, eyes closed, palms resting on thighs, breath by breath transported into full union with God. I sit like this for thirty minutes or more.

Now the truth…this type of medication is very hard for me. My mind is the monkeyest of monkeys. I try and try but I give up. Paul says that when we can’t pray the Spirit prays though us, sighs its prayer. And that prayer rises.

Be yourself and find your own way. Advice that has been given to me many times. And finally after a long time I actually hear the message. Be me. That means read scripture and other spiritual books, write down my thoughts, and listen to music. Music calms my soul and my mind. Music touches me deeply and transports me. Music heals. Music draws out my prayer and carries it to its destination.

About four years ago a spiritual director gave me this poem in response to something I had said in our session. I loved it immediately shared it with friends but only

today really heard what it had to say to me.

Music by Anne Porter

When I was a child

I once sat sobbing on the floor

Beside my mother’s piano

As she played and sang

For there was in her singing

A shy yet solemn glory

My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked

Why I was crying

I had no words for it

I only shook my head

And went on crying

Why is it that music

At its most beautiful

Opens a wound in us

An ache a desolation

Deep as a homesickness

For some far-off

And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood

Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend

From the other side of the world

That gives away the secret

Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries

We have been wandering

But we were made for Paradise

As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us

With its heavenly beauty

It brings us desolation

For when we hear it

We half remember

That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields

Their fragrant windswept clover

The birdsongs in the orchards

The wild white violets in the moss

By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it

Is the longed-for beauty

Of the One who waits for us

Who will always wait for us

In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us

And wanders where we wander.

“Music” by Anne Porter from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Steerforth Press, 2006.

Lady Playing the Piano by Carl Holsoe

Even the Sparrow

Sunday I woke up and got ready to go to church. I couldn’t rouse the girls. So I went off alone. As I walked through my building’s garage the phrase of a song played in my head…alone again, naturally. I sighed and then tried to shake it off…shook off the sadness, shook off the loneliness, shook off the blahs as best I could.

Once inside my little church I settled into my pew and began to breathe and sit in silence. The readings and hymns washed over me. The choir began to sing a new song and as I tried to sing along, I read these words:

Even the Sparrow finds shelter under the wings of the eagle…

Tears formed in my eyes as this truth sprang up from within…no, you are not alone. You are never alone.

I felt held and guarded and sheltered. It was then it arrived, Advent, a time for promises and the audacity of hope.

I couldn’t find the hymn we sang last weekend but I did find this one that I am sure is familiar to you…a beautiful old spiritual.